Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Arkane Studios
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Release Date: May 5, 2017
The Grade: B
Prey Haiku Review
Not like the old Prey
This Prey is like Aliens
The film, not the game
What is it? A first person, sci-fi action game. Gamers play as Morgan Yu, a scientist who wakes up on a space station called Talos I, which orbits Earth’s moon. You are part of a science experiment gone awry, and now you must use your wits and special abilities to defeat a hostile alien that has taken over the space station.
Highs: Part sci-fi thriller, part FPS, “Prey” has elements of other popular titles such as “Bioshock” and “Myst” that mix well with a creepy “Aliens” vibe. While it has some general similarities to all of these pop culture icons, “Prey” more than stands on its own.
Exploration is your primary mission in “Prey.” Hunting down key cards, searching for junk to recycle and repurpose into something else, and finding upgrades for your skill tree and weapons is a herculean, yet addictive task. This might sound like standard gaming fare but this title is anything but ordinary. “Prey” is a thinking person’s shooter. If you go in guns blazing prepare to die quickly and often. There’s much more to this game than running and gunning.
Unless you’re properly prepared, enemies are to be avoided. Find a locked door? Figure out a way around it. Out of ammo or need a particular weapon? Take some of the junk you’ve collected and make something new out of it in the Fabricator. Provided you have a blue print of course. Out manned and outgunned? Come up with a strategy.
“Prey” is a game that will challenge you. The game’s mechanics require intelligence and patience. Sometimes that means being able to recognize when something just doesn’t look right so you don’t get jumped unexpectedly by an alien Mimic that can take any inanimate form. Other times it’s figuring out that the atomic number for Xenon and Einsteinium so you can loot a safe. You’re essentially Mark Whatney from “The Martian” as you have to science the heck out of things, except you’re on a space station filled with killer aliens.
Just to get through the different levels of the vast Talos I space station is a challenge in and of itself, but making things even trickier are the randomly roaming alien Typhons. These creatures come in different sizes and shapes, have a wide range of abilities, are unpredictable, and are often hard to spot. Typhons are also frightening. A chilling score and their erratic behavior will keep you on your toes.
Lows: “Prey” is a virtual scavenger hunt. You get a clue for one thing and it leads to something else and an eventual payoff. While this makes for an addicting experience, a poor map makes exploring harder than it needs to be. You’ll get codes for safes, doorways and other places but it’s not often obvious where these locations are. They’re not highlighted on your map and often you have to leave one location and back track to go find it. I ran into so many different codes and doors that I’m sure I left a lot of loot and equipment that I could have used locked up.
More troubling is the game’s difficulty. “Prey” can be punishing. Combat is uneven, leaving players at a disadvantage. Enemies are deadly and quick, and poor Morgan Yu is just an average human, at least for a while. Swinging away at enemies with a wrench made me feel like I was an uncoordinated baseball player. Shooting, when you actually have bullets, won’t make you feel any more powerful. You can’t look down the sights and without upgrades guns lack punch. There are special abilities Morgan acquires throughout the game, but these also require resources.
Players will try to even the odds through a never ending cycle of recycling and fabricating, but that can get tedious. Throughout the entire game I was always scrounging for what I needed. To be fair, this kept the game demanding. Some titles let you gradually level up until you’re nearly unbeatable by the end. “Prey” doesn’t do that, there’s no rest for the weary here.
The Grade: Even though it has some flaws, I enjoyed my time with “Prey.” I found its sense of exploration and rugged gameplay to be right in my wheelhouse. If you’re looking for a title that tests your mettle, this game might just be for you.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.